subscribe: Posts | Comments | Email

A conversation about truth . . .

0 comments

Two_guys_talking“. . .  look, save your religion. I believe in facts, not fairy tales.”

“Glad to hear it.  Where do you get them?”

“Where do I get what?”

“Your facts.”

“What do you mean?”

“Lots of things claim to be fact. How do you know which ones are true and which ones aren’t? Where do you get your facts?”

“Like, from science — things that are proven.”

“Do you believe I’m sitting here talking to you?”

“Yeah.”

“I’m not proven by science.”

“No, but I see you, I hear you.”

“So your senses give you true facts?”

“Right.”

“Is that why you believe science gives you true facts – because it deals with things you can see and hear and taste and touch?”

“Right.”

“Do you believe in God?”

“No.”

“Is that because he can’t be verified by your senses or by science?”

“Exactly.”

“Where do you believe we came from?”

“We evolved.”

“Like Darwin said?”

“Right.”

“So natural laws and chance acting on matter over billions of years produced different life forms, and then natural selection determined which ones survived?”

“Yep.”

“That doesn’t leave much room for God, does it?”

“Nope.”

“Where did we get the idea of God?”

“The idea of God evolved because it helped man survive, but we don’t need that anymore. We’ve outgrown it.”

“I’ve heard that before. So when you boil it down, then, everything is pretty much just molecules in motion?”

“Yeah, well, atoms, subatomic particles, however you want to say it.”

“So let’s just call it matter in motion.”

“Whatever.”

“So however complex things may evolve to be, that doesn’t change the fact that bottom line, they’re matter in motion?”

“Yep, basically.”

“So religion, people’s belief in God, that’s all matter in motion?”

“Yep, like I said.”

“So all our ideas and beliefs are matter in motion?”

“Yeah, I guess.”

“And our sense perceptions are matter in motion?”

“Uh, well . . .”

“I mean, what else is there, right?”

“Well, yeah, but . . .”

“What else could our sense perceptions be but what everything is – matter in motion, right?”

“Right, I guess.”

“So our sense perceptions are matter in motion, and science is matter in motion, and Darwin’s theory is matter in motion. So let me ask you this: Why do you believe your senses give you true facts?”

“Because I know what I see, I know what I hear.”

“But what you see and hear is matter in motion, right? How do you know there is any correlation between the matter in motion in your head and the matter in motion which may or may not be out there?”

“Look, man, I’m here, you’re here, I see you, I hear you, that’s real!”

“Glad to hear you say it. And I agree, that’s real. But I’m just wondering how you know it’s real. I know it’s real because I know God who created all things, and who created me and my senses and my mind so that there is a real correlation between my perceptions and reality. But you don’t believe in God. You believe in matter in motion. On what basis can you know that there’s any correlation between your perceptions and reality?”

“Look, man, you’re just playing games.”

“I which I were, but I’m not. Did you know Darwin talked about this? He said he had a “horrid doubt” that always arose in him because he believed what you do – that everything evolved by chance, and therefore the mind of man evolved by chance. And so he had this “horrid doubt” as to whether the things we think and believe are of any value at all or can be trusted at all?” [1]

“Darwin said that?”

“He sure did. Because he knew if everything evolved by chance, and everything is just matter in motion, that means man’s thoughts and perceptions are just matter in motion. On what basis can we know reality from non-reality, truth from non-truth? Think about it.  If everything is just matter in motion, what is truth? What makes some matter in motion true and other matter in motion not true?”

“Well, look, I believe some things are true and other things false.”

“Hey, I agree with you, and I have a good reason for doing so. But the question is what reason do you have for believing some things are true and other things false? Do you know something Darwin didn’t?”

“Well, look, there’s been lots of science since Darwin.”

“Yes there has, but you know, it’s done nothing to take away Darwin’s “horrid doubt.” In fact, it’s only confirmed it.  Have you ever heard of Richard Rorty?”

“No.”

“Well, he was a professor at Princeton, Virginia, and Standford, and he is one of the most influential thinkers today. [2] And he believes what you believe and what Darwin believed. And you know, he just calls a spade a spade – he says the very notion of objective truth is ‘un-Darwinian.’ [3] He said all of our knowledge and beliefs ‘are as much products of chance as are tectonic plates and mutated viruses.’ [4] He said the whole idea of objective truth is left over from the belief that there’s a God who created the world and who’s written His own language into the world. [5] So you see, I’m not playing games. The whole bit about God creating the world, that’s what I believe, and that’s why I have good reason to believe my senses, to believe in logic, to believe in the scientific method, to believe that some things are objectively true and others objectively false. But I’m just wondering what basis you have for all that?”

“Well, I’d say I have the same basis as Darwin and this guy Rorty. They believed in science, and science led them to reject belief in God, and I agree with them.”

“You know, this is good, because now we’re getting down to the nub of it. You’re almost right — you just need to flip it around: It wasn’t science that led Darwin and Rorty to reject God; it was the rejection of God that led them to reject science.”

“Wait a minute. You’re saying they rejected science? They didn’t reject science; they believed in science.”

“Okay. Answer me this: What is science?”

“Science is, like, observation and experimentation and drawing conclusions – stuff like that.”

“So science doesn’t have any preconceived notions; it just follows the evidence wherever it leads?”

“Right.”

“That’s what I’m talking about. Darwin and Rorty rejected science.”

“I’m not following you.”

“Look, you said science doesn’t have any preconceived notions, but Darwin and Rorty do. They have a preconceived commitment to a naturalistic, closed cosmos which by definition excludes any possibility of God. And you said science follows the evidence wherever it leads, but Darwin and Rorty don’t and won’t. There’s lots of scientific evidence of intelligent design of the universe, but Darwin and Rorty and their followers reject it out of hand because it points to a Creator, which they have already decided up front cannot exist. Now that’s what they call ‘science,’ but by your own definition, that isn’t real science. And that’s my point: their rejection of God led them to reject science.”

“Well, hold on, back up. You’re assuming evidence for intelligent design. What evidence?”

“Well, there’s a lot, but let me just mention one so you know the kind of thing I’m talking about. Have you heard about the information revolution?”

“You’re talking about computers?”

“No, I’m talking about in all living things at the molecular level. There was an article in  Scientific American a while back that talked about how now many physicists now see life as primarily information and only secondarily matter and energy. [6] It turns out that cells don’t just function; they have to be told what to do, and the instructions are in the DNA. At first, they thought DNA was just a string of molecules. But then they found out that the different molecules are like letters of the alphabet; they have to be in certain sequences – like words – for the cell to understand the instructions and respond. And here’s the thing: The amount of information spelled out in the DNA of the simplest human cell is more the entire Encyclopedia Britanica, all 30 volumes, three times over. How does that happen by chance? That points to intelligent design.” [7]

“Well, haven’t they been able to produce amino acids in the lab by emulating natural processes?”

“Not really — not the way you’re thinking. They did produce amino acids, but there’s a couple of catches. First, the amino acids they produced were random, not sequenced the way DNA has to be — like the words of a book. Second, they didn’t really simulate natural processes. They used chemicals in pure form, which is not the way they’re found in nature, where they’re all mixed up with other chemicals. Second, they didn’t use natural light — full spectrum light — like we have in nature, because the ultra-violet part of light would prevent the amino acids from forming. So they blocked out the ultra-violet part. So what they did in the lab actually tends to point toward intelligent design, because apart from the scientists setting up things just so, they wouldn’t have gotten anything, and even what they did get didn’t begin to produce the information content of DNA. [8]

“Well, there’s lot of complex things that can be formed by chance – like snow flakes, stuff like that.”

“Yes, but we know the difference between complexity that can be formed by natural processes and complexity that requires intelligent design. Think about it. Let’s say you’re walking down the beach, and you see a pattern of thousands of ripples formed in the sand. That can be formed by natural processes, right?”

“Right, exactly.”

“But you see, while those ripples are complex, they don’t have high information content, because the instructions to form that pattern are simple: “Make a ripple, now make another one.” But let’s say you’re walking down the beach, and you see “Johnny loves Susie” in the sand. You know instantly that someone wrote those words, right?”

“Well, yeah.”

“Because that little sentence, while less complex than the thousands of ripples, has a much higher information content. The instructions to form it require a ton of information. Each mark much be formed just so and place just in the right place to form even one letter. And then you can’t just repeat the process. You have to give the instructions to form an entirely different letter, and then the letters have to be placed in just the right sequence to form words, and not just any words but just the right words, and then the words have to be placed in just the right order to say, “Johnny loves Susie.” That’s how we know someone wrote it. [9] And here’s the kicker: the scientific community knows this. You heard about them sending signals into outer space and listening for a response, right?

“Right.”

“How will they know if they get a response? How will they tell a response from random static and other noise?”

“Well, I assume they’d know how to tell the difference.”

“They do. And it’s just what I’ve been saying. They look for a repeated pattern with high information content. Random static and space noise may be complex, but it doesn’t fit the bill. If they get ‘Johnny loves Susie’ in Martian, they may not know what it means, but they’ll know they got something. They’ll immediately attribute it to intelligence. [10] And remember, the DNA information in the simplest human cell is a lot more than ‘Johnny loves Susie,’ it’s like a combined volume of Shakespeare’s plays .”

“Well, I don’t know – that’s a lot to think about.”

“It is, I know. But listen, would you agree that it’s worth thinking about?”

“Yeah.”

“Would you agree that the universe could be here on purpose, that it could be created with a purpose, that there could be Creator?”

“Yeah, maybe, could be.”

“Well, look, how about we get together and talk about this some more? Maybe we get coffee. I’m buying.”

“If you’re buying. I don’t know if I’ll come around to what you’re saying, but I got a rule: ‘Never turn down a free cup of coffee.’”

“See. I knew you’re more than matter in motion.”

__________________________________

[1] Charles Darwin, “Life and letters of Charles Darwin,” vol. 1, Francis Darwin, ed. (New York: D. Appleton, 1898), 285 (quoted in “Total Truth” by Nancy Pearcey, 243).

[2] New York Times, “Richard Rorty, Philosopher, Dies at 75” http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/11/obituaries/11rorty.html?_r=0; Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosphy, “Richard Rorty,” http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/rorty/.

[3] Richard Rorty, “Untruth and Consequences” in “The New Republic,” July 31, 1995, pp. 32-36 (quoted in Pearcey, “Total Truth,” 243).)

[4]  Rorty, ibid. (quoted in Pearcey, “Total Truth,” 242-43).

[5] Rorty, “Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity” (Cambridge University Press, 1989), p. 21 (quoted in Pearcey, “Total Truth, ” 246).

[6] Jacob D. Bekenstein, “Information in the Holographic Universe,” ScientificAmerican.com, July 14, 2003, at http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?articleID=000AF072-4891-1F0A-97AE80A84189EEDF

[7] Charles Colson and Nancy Pearcey, “Science and Evolution,” 55-62 (Tyndale House 1999).

[8] Ibid. 48-55.

[9] Ibid. 57-59.

[10] Ibid.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks
  • LinkedIn
  • Live
  • Mixx
  • MySpace
  • Reddit
  • RSS

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *